Football – Defense Leads Mater Dei to Payback Win Over RBC, State Final Berth
RED BANK - The returning players and coaches on the Mater Dei Prep football team had just about an entire year to think about the plays it did not make and the big ones it gave up in last November's NJSIAA Non-Public Group III championship-game loss to Red Bank Catholic.
In 2018, it was a handful of plays that the Caseys made that proved the difference. In 2019, Mater Dei made sure that with Friday's Non-Public Group III semifinal game on the line and revenge on its mind, there was nowhere for the RBC offense to go.
The Seraphs sacked the Caseys' two-headed quarterback tandem seven times, including once on the penultimate play of the game to set off a frantic finish in what was ultimately a 10-3 Mater Dei victory and dominant defensive performance by the Seraphs at Count Basie Field.
"We knew that we had to be more disciplined this year," junior defensive end Dom Guidice said. "Turnovers hurt us last year and we knew this time, we had to create turnovers - not make them. We had to play a really disciplined game and that's what we fixed from last year."
Mater Dei advances to the state championship game for the fourth straight season since head coach Dino Mangiero took over ahead of the 2016 season. The Seraphs will take on DePaul at a date and time to be determined - a rematch of a classic semifinal game from a year ago, which Mater Dei pulled out with a defensive stand in the final seconds.
"It was a great revenge game," Guidice said. "But like coach Mangiero said when we got in the locker room, we didn't win anything yet. We just won one game - it was a great game - but we still have a state championship to play."
It was once again Mater Dei's defense that won the day on Friday night, holding Red Bank Catholic to 165 yards of offense, including 53 on the ground. RBC took over its final possession of the game with only 105 yards.
"This was a great defensive effort by our team," said Mangiero, a former NFL defensive lineman. "They have some real athletes on their team. They have some good players and I thought our defense shut them down. To only give up three points is great."
Despite Mater Dei's dominance on the defensive side of the ball, Red Bank Catholic took over possession with 1:37 remaining and a chance to drive for the tying score, albeit with no timeouts remaining. Senior quarterback Ryan Edgerly hit sophomore Joe Diorio three times on the final drive for first-down pickups, including a 16-yard gain on 2nd-and-14 and an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-10.
The last of Diorio's catches set up RBC at the Mater Dei 39 with the clock stopped at 41 seconds but the Seraphs defense turned the tide in those final 40 seconds. Edgerly fired deep for senior Kevin Bauman to no avail on back-to-back plays, with the 6-foot-6 tight end blanketed Mater Dei senior Clarence Lewis - a fellow Notre Dame commit.
"We had one Notre Dame kid covering another," Mangiero said. "We told our Notre Dame guy, 'Wherever 18 (Bauman) goes, you go. He covered the whole game and he did a good job."
"It was a really tough match-up," Lewis said. "He is a great player, he got me a couple times, but I think I did pretty good. He is really good, though."
On 3rd-and-10, Mater Dei dialed up a blitz and got to Edgerly, with Khalil Elamin and Amir Coleman getting to the Caseys quarterback at the same time before the rest of the swarm piled on.
"It's all about showing one thing and doing another on defense," Mangiero said. "That's something we work on all year and our linebackers did a good job disguising our coverages and blitzes."
With no timeouts, the clock ticking away and fourth down upcoming from the Mater Dei 48, Red Bank Catholic had to scramble back to the line to get off one more play. Junior Anthony Borriello took the last play at quarterback, rolled left and fired a long pass that junior Lenny Loria caught inside the 20 yard-line. Loria, however, could not quite keep his feet and went down at the 13-yard line to end the game.
Red Bank Catholic had a fighting chance at the end of the game thanks to the work of its own standout defense, which kept Mater Dei off the scoreboard after the Seraphs advanced the ball to the Caseys 11 yard-line with six minutes remaining in the game. With the aid of a fumbled snap, RBC pushed Mater Dei out of field-goal range, finishing off the drive with a sack by senior Kevin Degnan and an interception by Loria on fourth down.
Loria's leaping interception - which he caught at the three yard-line and returned to the Caseys 13 - actually cost Red Bank Catholic 16 yards of field position. RBC went on to pick up one first down before punting the ball back to Mater Dei 2:35 to go. The Caseys defense came through by stuffing Mater Dei on three straight runs and with three timeouts remaining before the drive, RBC stopped the clock three times to get the ball back for one last opportunity.
With the defense shutting the RBC offense down, senior running back Malik Ingram carried the Mater Dei offense. Ingram suffered what Mangiero described as a stinger while playing linebacker on Mater Dei's second defensive series and had to be helped off the field.
Undeterred, Ingram returned on the next offensive possession and ran for gains of 11 and 10 yards on the first two plays. The drive stalled out, but Ingram was just getting warmed up.
"I have been doing this a long, long time," Mangiero said. "I have sent running backs to Wisconsin, Notre Dame - some of the biggest schools in the country. He is right up there with them. Not only is he a very good running back, but he's got guts and he runs hard. He is just a real solid football player. Nothing was keeping him out."
Lewis recovered a fumble on the ensuing defensive series to give his team the ball on its own 36 after the Caseys marched into Seraphs territory. On the first play of Mater Dei's third possession, Ingram broke the biggest play of the game, busting through the line and rumbling up the right sideline for a 50-yard run down to the RBC 14.
After taking the next play off, Ingram trotted back onto the field and steamrolled eight yards for the game's lone touchdown. Richie Pekmezian's kick made it 7-0, Seraphs with 7:16 to go in the second quarter.
Red Bank Catholic made it back into Mater Dei territory on each of its final three possessions of the half but could muster no more than a 29-yard field goal by Michael O'Connor on the final play before halftime. The first drive ended with the fumble, the second on downs at the 31 and the third with the field goal.
Mater Dei got those three points back on its first drive of the third quarter, which chewed up 6:28 of game clock to open the half. Sophomore quarterback Alex Brown found Lewis for a key 12-yard pickup on 4th-and-9 from the RBC 31, which set the stage for Pekmezian's 36-yard boot to make it 10-3 just past the midway point of the third.
While Elamin and Coleman capped Mater Dei's sack-fest, it was three other pass-rushers who starred. Guidice, senior Khurram Simpson and senior Tajay Passmore each finished with two sacks, with Guidice recording his on back-to-back plays in the third quarter.
"Me and Khurram address the game as we're the best two defensive ends in the state," Guidice said. "No one can block us as long as we keep working those hands. Everyone kept working as a unit."
"We have two pretty good defensive ends so we gave them a lot of two-way go's and a couple times we blitzed them," Mangiero said. "We tried to mix it up and keep them off-balance. We knew they weren't a great passing team so if we could keep their (quarterback) off-balance, we would be alright."
Six of the seven Mater Dei sacks came during the second half, when the Serpahs defense took over. RBC had 112 total yards from scrimmage at halftime and at the start of its final drive of the game, it had only 105.
Mater Dei indeed got its revenge for last year's 14-10 loss to the Caseys in the sectional championship game at MetLife Stadium, but will now face a DePaul team looking to do the same after the Seraphs stunned the Spartans, 28-23, on the road in the semifinal.
"We just gotta stay level because last year, we got too high and then we lost," Lewis said. "We just gotta focus, come out next week and try to play as hard as we did this week."
"They are going to be in our shoes this week," Mangiero said of DePaul. "We were all excited to come here and get revenge on these guys and they are going to be looking to do the same thing to us."
Mater Dei Prep 10, Red Bank Catholic 3
|Mater Dei (8-3)||0||7||3||0||10|
MD - Malik Ingram 8-yard run (Richie Pekmezian kick)
RBC - Michael O'Connor 29-yard field goal
MD - Richie Pekmezian 36-yard field goal
Rushing - MD: Malik Ingram 18-125, Isaiah Noguera 8-37, Ra'Jahn Cooper 1-6, Clarence Lewis 1-2, Kyree Drake 1-(-2), Alex Brown 6-(-25); RBC: Anthony Borriello 12-56, Elijah Jules 12-27, Billy Guidetti 3-9, Kevin Degnan 2-(-4), Ryan Edgerly 6-(-35)
Passing - MD: Alex Brown 5-9-1 39; RBC: Ryan Edgerly 10-16-0 77, Anthony Borriello 1-3-0 35
Receiving - MD: Clarence Lewis 3-25, Kyree Drake 2-14; RBC: Joe Diorio 3-38, Lenny Loria 1-35, Kevin Bauman 2-13, Charlie Gordinier 1-12, Billy Guidetti 1-7, Elijah Jules 2-6, Kevin Degnan 1-1
Interceptions-Return Yards: Lenny Loria 1-10